ABSTRACT

Indonesia continued to pursue closer ties with Washington. From Washington’s perspective, Indonesia was of strategic significance to the US “by virtue of its geography, population, and resources” and having “the potential to be the regional leader and a major stabilizing force in the Southeast Asia”.1 The US had however not decided how it could best assist Indonesia to realize its potential to serve American interests in the region. According to US ambassador to Indonesia, David Newsom, the Indonesian staff officer at the department of state was “inadequate” and state was also not well staffed on Indonesia.2 A study was undertaken in September 1974 to look into this. This was a very turbulent period in American high politics. Nixon resigned in August 1974 and Gerald Ford became the 38th president of the US, his powers very much circumscribed by congress. Very soon after that, Suharto sent foreign minister Adam Malik to call on president Ford “to confirm our (Indonesia’s) desire to continue our friendly relations” as well as to ensure that American aid to Indonesia would continue. Malik also carried with him a personal letter from Suharto to Ford. Reflecting his constraints, Ford told Malik, “Our problem is that Presidents tend to be more generous than the Congress. But there is a strong desire on our part to continue this economic and military assistance. Until we get the bills through Congress, though, we wouldn’t be sure. The Congressional attitude is to reduce and to restrict the Administration request that President Nixon submitted. But whatever the amounts we get, we will do the best we can.”3 As Ford had anticipated there was indeed a drastic cutback and all economic aid for the fiscal year 1976 was tentatively terminated. Kissinger informed Ford that this “coupled with Indonesian pessimism over the reliability of US intentions towards Indonesia, have led the Suharto government to fear that the US has downgraded Indonesia’s importance as a major stabilizing force in Southeast Asian, and that the US no longer intends to help Indonesia toward a more active regional role”. Apparently, ambassador Newsom had also of late encountered reduced access to Indonesian officials. Jakarta also became less cooperative on international issues such as the ICCS in Vietnam.4 In a 15 February 1975 memorandum to the president, Kissinger noted that the department of state

had warned that in a period of increasing uncertainty in Indochina, the US should not gamble with the stability of its relations with Indonesia.5